The strategy of the united front has always been instrumental to the task of winning power, and has always been superior to the modern American left’s default strategy of acting like only others within the “left” are worth reaching out to. Frederick Douglas and his movement achieved abolition by creating an anti-slavery power coalition; the Bolsheviks came to power due to their having worked in reactionary trade unions; the Panthers brought racist working class whites to anti-racism via outreach to them. Again and again, it’s proven that being insular is not the way to be effective. And with the political realignment that the United States population has been undergoing, the insular way of operating has become more foolish than ever.
This is a realignment where the country’s conservatives have increasingly become antiwar, unfortunately in contrast to how those who consider themselves on the left have become increasingly aligned with pro-imperialist views. We first saw clear evidence of this when throughout 2018, surveyors asked conservatives and liberals how they felt about the USA’s foreign military involvement, and the former group was where the most opposition to this practice could be found. What made this notable was how by that point, these wars which so many conservatives disliked had clearly gone from being Obama’s wars to being Trump’s wars; the antiwar conservatives felt this way not for momentary partisan reasons, but because they were overall becoming more hostile towards the idea of America inserting itself into global affairs. This makes it unsurprising that the left, due to its own failures on anti-imperialism and the liberal embrace of the “Russiagate” psyop, is now overall less enthusiastic to challenge NATO than conservatives are.
These things don’t make everything else the American right believes correct, they’re simply the facts about our conditions; now what are we communists to do with this information? If you listen to the actors who are still focused on appealing to liberals and to “left” spaces, we should in effect do nothing with it. They believe that regardless of how lacking in integrity the left is on anti-imperialism; and of how America’s political realignment has represented a spontaneous upsurge in mass anti-imperialist sentiment outside the left; we should stay with the old practice of exclusively trying to appeal to the left.
And that’s the less damaging kind of advice these actors give about this. When they have a reason to become aggressive, they argue that we should not only refuse to build an ideologically diverse anti-imperialist force, but also actively try to isolate and censure the groups and individuals working towards that goal. We saw this when they became obsessed with attacking the Rage Against the War Machine rally and coalition; then the Cornel West campaign; and now the August 6 Humanity for Peace event, which RAWM is facilitating.
Their reasoning—at least according to the overt parts of their arguments—is that even though many who aren’t on the left have been becoming more anti-imperialist, these types of conservatives are still backward in their views on plenty of other things. To which we can say: why do you see this as a reason to reject the united front strategy, rather than to embrace it so we can expose these people to new ideas? If Marxists can find commonality with right-leaning non-Marxists on anti-imperialism, that represents an opportunity to introduce them to our movement’s theory. Plenty of Americans only presently believe they’re against “Marxism” because they’ve never had anyone honestly tell them what Marxism is; everyone is an ideological product of their environment. And if you change somebody’s environment, such as by letting them for the first time be in proximity to communists, they themselves can easily change.
The same argument can be applied to all the other ideas that we hold, but that many of the people don’t share as of yet; such as acceptance of trans folks, or maximally expanded tribal sovereignty. We can’t bring these ideas to the people if we refuse to engage with a large element of the people. Especially an element that’s showing itself to be compatible with one of the most revolutionary ideas in today’s discourse: the idea that U.S. hegemony should be ended.
This is where the insular left’s real problem with the united front strategy becomes apparent. Because these kinds of leftists show that they are willing to work with people and groups which have serious problems; their practice is to align with “left” orgs and activists which are disgracefully ambivalent towards the anti-imperialist cause. The true reason why contemporary leftist thinking is hostile towards the anti-imperialist united front is because within this thinking, the fight against U.S. hegemony isn’t viewed as intrinsically progressive. The only way an anti-NATO project can be viewed as progressive within this mentality is if that project is being carried out by a government, org, or person that’s sufficiently enlightened in their social and economic views. Therefore when China defies U.S. hegemony it’s rightly praised by these types of leftists, whereas when Russia takes such actions it’s condemned by them.
There’s a clear fallacy in this reasoning, as it acts like the globe’s primary contradiction (and the contradiction which we must sufficiently combat in order to resolve all other contradictions) is fundamentally less important than all other contradictions. We won’t be able to win domestically if we haven’t done enough to help defeat the hegemon; which is a task that’s absolutely doable, as changing mass consciousness towards anti-imperialism can render the war operations untenable. To say that this task is the most effective thing we can engage in at this stage isn’t a devaluation of the liberation struggles of oppressed peoples within the core; it’s simply a practical assessment of the situation we’re in. The reality is that to minimize the importance of fighting the hegemon is to undermine not only the fight of imperialism’s global targets, but the fight of these groups within U.S. borders.
The orgs whose members or adjacent individuals have been attacking the anti-NATO front are choosing this counterproductive way of operating because they view this front as a threat to their monopoly over the activist space. And the argument they’re using to justify doing this is that to join with the front is supposedly a betrayal of oppressed groups. This is only a way of disguising their own opportunistic motives.
An org that’s trying to hinder serious efforts towards restoring the mass anti-imperialist struggles of 20th century American communism, and towards otherwise making communism mainstream again, doesn’t fundamentally care about the domestic liberation struggles. This is why the arguments against these efforts inevitably take on a nature that’s not based in fact; the consistent tactic is to equate the anti-NATO coalition’s non-left elements with fascists. Which relies upon the propaganda’s targets not making an honest, rigorous effort at investigating the coalition. RAWM and Humanity for Peace can only be “discredited” via criticisms that are fundamentally unprincipled, and made to advance an opportunistic agenda.
The effect of aligning with this agenda is to maintain one’s approval among the conventional authorities on what it means to be a good “leftist,” while in practice opposing the measures that can actually advance the progressive goals leftists are supposed to care about. Do you want to be accepted into a group, or be an authentic threat towards our ruling institutions? That’s the nature of the question of whether we should join with the anti-imperialist united front; or continue with the insular operating model that’s kept the class struggle inert for decades.
By Rainer Shea